SEATTLE - The Seattle Seahawks didn't need to win on Sunday but they sure wanted to. Taking care of the lowly Arizona Cardinals and reaching 10 victories would have meant closing out the season the regular the right way.
The latter could be debatable despite the 27-24 win that took place thanks to a game-winning, 33-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski as time expired. Seattle certainly didn't play as well as it had hoped to but one couldn't tell by the exuberance in the locker room following the game.
For Seattle (10-6), the 13 1/2-point spread in its favor over Arizona (3-13) was meaningless. The Seahawks didn't care that they didn't win pretty. They won and now it's on to Dallas (10-6), the NFC East champion for a wild card playoff game on Saturday night.
That fact is true. Included in that losing streak to the Cardinals at home was a 26-24 loss last year on the final day of the season that left the Seahawks at 9-7. Seattle's playoff hopes that day had already ended when Atlanta won earlier, but still, losing like that at home to the Cardinals stung. For that reason alone, Sunday's win over Arizona felt good, regardless of how it came about and that it was Arizona's closest defeat since losing 23-21 to Oakland on Nov. 18.
The Seahawks winning a close game like this against a weak team could pay dividends down the road. And let's not ignore the fact that Dallas closed out its season by coming from behind to win 36-35 at the New York Giants (5-11) on Sunday.
Carroll said that Fluker could have played but he decided to hold him out. Fluker will start at Dallas. Sweezy (ankle) is more of a question mark.
Another concern came on special teams where a blocked punt resulted in an Arizona touchdown and two-point conversion that tiede the game at 21 apiece late in the third quarter.
"We've got to clean that up," Carroll said.
All of these issues, plus converting on just 4 of 14 third-down attempts and Wilson passing for just 152 yards, led to a 24-24 game with 1:49 remaining on the clock.
"I love that we won at the end of the game," Carroll said. "We needed a fourth-quarter drive to do it...When it comes time in these next week or maybe weeks ahead, and here it comes, we're coming down to (Jankowski) to win the game, everybody is going to click right into this mentality that we've already been through this and we know what it takes."
The way this team plays it's likely that any playoff win will come down to the final moments. Seattle is built for that type of game with its defense, dominant running game - Seattle churned out 182 yards on Sunday - and clutch quarterback.
"Whenever we play really good defense and we're able to run the ball, we have a chance to be in every game," Carroll said.
Seattle began this season 0-2 before turning the season around with a 24-13 win over Dallas at home. The Cowboys began the season 3-5 before winning seven out of eight to win the NFC East.
The matchup, on paper, appears to be one that could look very much like the games each team played today. In that case, what Seattle went through on Sunday was probably the best way to prepare for the postseason.
"We got the win," Wilson said, "and that's all that matters."